The Importance of Using Tested Materials

Recently, Fox News reported on a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine that points to the importance of using tested materials in residential construction.  In fact, it really could be extrapolated to an underlying problem, the lack of residential building licensing (at least in Texas), but that’s an article for another day.

In the document recently released by the Institute of Medicine, studies showed that in an attempt to “weatherize” a building, other problems – such as dampness which allows mold to grow, or infectious agents and pests to thrive – can occur. In other words, the indoor environment can be affected in a harmful way. According to the report, “Even with the best intentions, indoor environmental quality issues may emerge with interventions that have not been sufficiently well screened for their effects on occupant safety and health.” However, many residential products don’t get tested thoroughly until they have been on the market for a while.  Even if it has been tested in a lab, there is no substitute for testing in the field.  There are several reasons for this:

  • The home is a system, made up of many products that work together to create a liveable environment.  There are a number of different approaches to providing the best indoor air quality, for instance.  The traditional method was to create positive air pressure and “push” air out through the relatively porous walls, allowing plenty of fresh air to come in through those same walls.  With less porous materials being used inside the exterior wall cavities, now fresh air must sometimes be introduced artificially through the HVAC system.  The question arises here, have all the potential options for materials been tested together to ensure that humidity is not somehow trapped inside the home?  That is an important question.
  • Time-tested materials have been thoroughly field tested.  For example:  While watching “This Old House” several years ago, we noticed that when they peel back the Fiber board and reveal 100-year-old framing material, it looks practically brand new.  That is a fairly convincing testament to this material.  To change to a newer material, one would need fairly convincing data that the new material will hold up as well as this one.

Although there is no cause for alarm, this article does point out an important consideration in how residential builders must approach the abundant choices we make each and every day.  Each product must be thoroughly reviewed to ensure all the proper testing has been done, as well as how it tested in relation to the other products going into the home.  This is a good reminder that we in this industry must always remember that we serve families first.  Let’s face it, there will be children living in most of our homes.  There is, in my opinion, no more important job on the planet than doing our absolute best to ensure those families breath clean, fresh air.

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